Virtually unnoticed amidst the attention given to the months long saga of GE’s decision to move its corporate headquarters from Fairfield was another relocation by the company – this time not only leaving a state, but the United States. And in that instance as well as the latest decision, government was cited as a reason for the departure. Less than four months ago, GE announced it was leaving Waukesha, Wisconsin for Canada, and moving 350 jobs north of the border. GE closed a long-time engine manufacturing plant in Wisconsin and announced plans to invest $265 million to build a new one in Canada in order to take advantage of Canadian export credit financing. The new plant was expected to be completed in 20 months and was described by GE as “a flexible production facility that can expand over time and also support manufacturing requirements for other GE businesses.”
The company said the new state-of-the-art plant in Canada and will be a flexible facility that can expand over time and also support manufacturing requirements for other GE businesses. GE notified employees in Waukesha and more than 400 U.S. suppliers of its plans. In Wisconsin alone, suppliers generated almost $47 million in revenue from the plant, GE said at the time.
“We know these announcements will have regrettable impact not only on our employees but on the hundreds of U.S. suppliers we work with that cannot move their facilities, but we cannot walk away from our customers,” said John Rice, Vice Chairman, GE, when the Wisconsin move was announced.
The blame, according to a GE news release, rested on Congress, which allowed the nation’s Export-Import Bank to cease functioning. Last week, in an effort to break a political logjam in the Republican-controlled Congress, the White House announced it would nominate a Republican to lead the agency.
When the company announced its decision to leave Wisconsin for an unnamed Canadian city, it pointed the finger squarely at Congress:
“GE is currently bidding on $11 billion of projects that require export financing. While more than 60 other countries have export credit agencies (ECAs) that support domestic manufacturing for export, the US does not. The authorization for the U.S. export credit agency – the Export-Import Bank, or Ex-Im – lapsed on July 1. For the last year, exporters and suppliers have called upon Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank to support manufacturing jobs and level the playing field for U.S. companies that compete globally. Most countries are hungry for manufacturing and export jobs. The U.S. remains the only major economy in the world without an export bank.”
The headquarters move to Boston was not GE’s only major announcement this week. The company also announced plans to cut 6,500 jobs in Europe as it moves to integrate Alstom SA’s power business and push through cost savings from the acquisition, made last year. The acquisition included facilities in Windsor and Bloomfield in Connecticut, including about 1,000 jobs. No word on whether cuts may be coming there as well. Published reports indicated that GE has not yet announced how many jobs it could eliminate in the Americas, Africa and Asia, where it is also working to integrate Alstom’s operations with its own power business.